Installing Linux as the Only OS on MacBook Pro
In this post I am going to briefly outline the process I went through installing a Linux distro to run as the only OS on my MacBook Pro. I will cover my process of experimenting with various distros and why I finally settled on Manjaro, and what hitches I ran into on the way and how I solved them.
I have a mid-2010 MacBook Pro that was quickly becoming fairly useless. I was running OS X Lion on it but it was sluggish and would heat up after running for only a short time. Because I have another MacBook that I use for business and some dev work, I was contemplating giving this older MacBook away and replacing it with a smaller laptop, netbook or even Chromebook for regular internet use. When I booted it up to clean out my files it prompted me to update the OS to Yosemite. I decided to go ahead and do this wondering what impact it would have on the system stability. Alas, the update failed and I was left with endless kernel panic messages and the Mac would no longer boot to a usable state.
This was the nail on the coffin for me as I no longer have the original CDs that came with this MacBook. Being as I like playing around with tech and I had nothing left to lose I decided to try installing a completely different OS on this MacBook to see what would happen. I tried several Linux distros including OpenSuse, Debian, Linux Mint, and Fedora. I even tried FreeBSD. In each case though I ran into various issues with system stability and hardware support, the most troublesome being wireless support and trackpad support. I did not try Ubuntu because I already have a machine running Ubuntu, and I wanted something different.
Finally I came across Manjaro Linux, which is based on Arch Linux. I decided to try out the KDE version, downloaded the ISO, burned it to a disc and then popped it into my MacBook Pro. Holding down the alt/option button allowed me to boot into a screen offering me various boot media. Ironically, the Manjaro disc shows up as “Windows” so I went ahead and selected that.
It booted up into the Live Disc which ran beautifully and had a splash screen offering various options. I decided to go ahead and run the install. I had three installers to choose from – “Thus”, Calamares, or CLI. I first ran the install using Calamares, but when it was done I couldn’t boot into my new install because of the EFI boot section still on the drive from OS X. I tried to install/repair Grub using instructions from the Manjaro forums but wasn’t having much success. So I decided to run the install again from the disc but this time to try “Thus”.
“Thus” is a native Manjaro installer that at the time of this writing is still in beta. It worked beautifully for me and made creating partitions and selecting where to mount each from a breeze, and it also installed Grub2 without too many hiccups. As a disclaimer I should say that I probably didn’t pay too much attention to how I set up my partitions when using Calamares and this may be why I ran into boot problems. But it felt very clean and intuitive using Thus. Next time I will run an install using Calamares again and see if I can get it right. I never got to experiment with the CLI install so that would be interesting to try too.
Once I completed the install I rebooted the MacBook Pro, making sure to eject the disc from the drive first, and it booted into Manjaro with no dramas!! Yay!! My wifi was detected instantly and everything just seemed to work right out of the box. The trackpad works beautifully and mimics OS X functionality perfectly. The only difference I have detected so far is that I can’t use the double finger swipe to display the desktop, and also on the keyboard I have to use the control key where I would ordinarily use the command key on OS X, for example to copy, paste, print, etc.
Manjaro also detected and installed the drivers for my Brother printer (wireless) over wifi and printed a test page successfully without me having to do anything else.
I am yet to connect to my external display and my iogear KVM switch, interested to see how that works.
Post Install Tasks
As soon as I started navigating around the desktop the Octopi utility let me know that I had 399 updates that needed installing. This ended up being a bit of a headache. I first tried using Octopi but it was hanging on fetching the packages. I then decided to use the terminal to run the updates, which I could initiate from within Octopi. The packages downloaded without a problem but would not install or run because they kept reporting issues with the PGP keys. I did a bit of google searching and found that the issue was likely that the PGP keys on my install were corrupted or out of date, but as always there is a solution, which I found on the Pacman troubleshooting page on the Manjaro wiki. I recommend you read the full article but here are the steps as I followed them:
1. Remove old (and possibly broken) keys by entering this command:
sudo rm -r /etc/pacman.d/gnupg
2. Reinstall keyrings including the latest keys:
sudo pacman -Sy gnupg archlinux-keyring manjaro-keyring
3. Initialize the pacman keyring:
sudo pacman-key –init
4. Load the signature keys:
sudo pacman-key –populate archlinux manjaro
5. Refresh and update the signature keys:
sudo pacman-key –refresh-keys
6. Clear out the software packages downloaded during the aborted installation (optional):
sudo pacman -Sc
I didn’t run step 6 because I wanted to see if these packages would now install, and I didn’t want to wait for them to download again. I then tried running the update process again and it all worked smoothly with no errors.
Installing Google Chrome
Manjaro comes with Firefox already installed, but I happen to like Google Chrome as well, so I wanted to install that. It was easy following the steps in this tutorial. In summary, first I ran this command to install yaourt or check that yaourt was installed:
sudo pacman -S yaourt
And then I ran this command to install Google Chrome, making sure to select “1” for the stable version when prompted.
After that I just followed the prompts. Once installed, it showed up on the Application Launcher under Internet.
Aside from functionality and the fact that it installed so effortlessly on the MacBook Pro I really like the look and feel of this distro. Manjaro Linux is sleek, clean, and fast and it boots up in seconds. Because I have never used Arch Linux or any distros based on Arch before it’s a learning experience for me, but I am loving it. I am actually writing this post using my “feels new” MacBook Pro that’s now got a new lease on life, thanks to Manjaro Linux.
Please let me know in the comments below if you have used Manjaro and what you think of it, or if you have any questions about Manjaro on the MacBook.